By JAMAL THALJI
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 7, 2001
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Joe Anders had every reason to accept a scholarship to the University of Tampa -- and then some.
The Ridgewood forward loves the school's cozy campus in downtown Tampa. He's eager to contribute to a rising program and play for coach Richard Schmidt.
Plus, UT was his first choice all along. When the coaching staff offered a substantial scholarship package that pays nearly all of Anders' expenses, he had to accept. But when it came down to it, Anders said it was former Rams and Spartans baseball star Mike Rabelo who convinced him UT was the place to be.
"Mike told me about this building they send you to for tutoring if you're having any problems with your classes," Anders said. "And they give you milk and cookies while you're waiting.
"I knew then I wanted to go there."
The 6-foot-5 Anders made it official last week, signing his scholarship papers and ending weeks of nervous anticipation and whirlwind cross-country drives from college to college.
Anders, whose father, Gary, is Ridgewood's longtime coach and athletic director, was a key contributor to last season's 20-9 squad. Anders averaged 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while hitting 71 percent from the free-throw line.
He joins a program coming off an historic 25-7 season. The Spartans won the NCAA Division II South Regional for the first time and advanced to the national semifinals before losing 85-84 in overtime to eventual champion Kentucky Wesleyan.
"I'm thrilled," Anders said. "Coach (Bobby) Bowman from PHCC was telling me to keep my head up because it's such a roller-coaster ride; because it's such a process. And a roller-coaster ride it was.
"I'm glad it's going to be (UT) because that's where I wanted to go all along. I'm glad I finally got the opportunity.
"It was a really stressful process. The hardest part for me was to keep my head up and keep my hopes high. I'm glad to say it's over."